Sunday, November 01, 2020
When I had a studio on Granville and Robson, people of all kinds opened my studio door and faced my camera. They came and they went. I would go home satisfied that I had had a good day and had taken good photographs.
But in an obsession that has been with me now for many years the idea of a person passing by my lens and being exposed to film; taking the film home to process it or if colour transparency leaving it at a photo lab. The obsession is about a moment taken perhaps at a 1/1000 second shutter speed. Is that moment back for me by just looking at the negative or slide with a loupe, or printing it in my former darkroom? Is that moment as fleeting as the movements of a ballet dancer in space and when the performance is over all you have is the memory of what you saw?
What makes my obsession more complicated is that rarely do I upon living that moment, that short exposure think, “Will I someday look back at this?” Has this all to do with our human perception that time is linear and it only goes into one direction — a rapidly future becoming future, an instant of present and then to a past.
Of that past Borges said it best. “In order to remember you must first forget.”
Attempting to keep my cool and my sanity almost locked into our Kitsilano pad I have been putting negatives and slides away, properly alphabetized in my files. But I stop here and there; take out the negatives, prints and transparencies and look at them. I have a memory for most of them but in years past I only printed in my darkroom the best ones. A scanner in my well lit oficina now presents me with the pleasant challenge of looking at other pictures and experimenting on how I can make them “better”.
For almost 10 years I taught at a photography school called Focal Point on 10th Avenue here in Vancouver. My most popular course was called The Contemporary Portrait Nude. The classes were small, perhaps a dozen. The school would bring in models (of both sexes) who would undrape for my students. I taught my students how to light but also how to deal with models who without clothes had to be treated courteously with a protocol that I explained.
I was frustrated because our models were all very good and it was difficult for me to take pictures. For one the photographs were taken by my students connected to a studio flash system. I could, when possible, squeeze a few shots with a fast film camera or with the iPhone3G which I had at the time.
Today I looked into the file called Skye, Angelina. I remember that she was pleasantly different. She was not a 20 year-old with a perfect body. She was most lovely and in her mid 30s. She posed for the class once and I never saw her again.
Many photographers know that an unprocessed negative or slide has within it what is called a latent image. Once the film is processed the image is then revealed. With digital cameras this curious (and for me wonderful) phenomenon is gone with the instant appearance of the shot just taken in the back of the camera display. There is a mechanical process here (even if it is digital) that for me destroys the fluidity of shooting. I used to shoot. Now you shoot and look, and you shoot and look.
I wish I could find Angelina Sky and sit with her for a coffee and find out how my memories of her would contrast with her memories of having posed for us. And of course, after all these years, in this terrible ever-so-correct century it would be tantamount of sexual harassment if I asked, “Would you pose for me again, and just for me?”
What is interesting in bringing back that exact moment in time is that I know that I took the photos on May 20 2011 and that the iPhone shots in their file info record the time as 11:30 am.